Arriving in Cat Ba after a series of bus and boat rides, we discover it is a vacant town. Bussling on sunny weekends this place must be a sought after destination for tourists seeking beaches, climbing, trekking, sailing and kayaking. For us, the Sun never pearced the lingering cloud cast over the island. We were damp the entire duration of our stay, but the weather did not hamper our sense of adventure and we sought to explore the marvels of new place.
Kayaking was the first activity we pursued. From the water's surface we gained a perspective of towering limestone Karsts that appeared as petrified sail fins of ancient titan sea creatures. A cetacean family frozen and eternalized in a mystical landscape. Together we paddled in pursuit of our guide, who with gentle strokes and remaining perfectly dry outpaced our greatest efforts to keep up. At moments I become lost in the solitude of mind. My body now in rythym with the ocean as waves lapped against the side of the narrow craft. The paddle slipping into shallow strokes with a slosh that propelled me gently forward. Slosh, slosh, slosh I glided over the deep grey water. Around me distant forms appeared from within the misty veil that shrouded the horizon. Comforted, as if cloaked in a warm blanket I took rest. Bobbing in fluid sync with the movement of water a moment of awe stuck me about the granduer of the world and the privilage I've been granted to explore it with good friends. After three hours of exploring rock faces and clam farms we headed to our point of departure in search of a warm exchange of clothes.
Our second day of adventuring brought us to Cat Ba National Park and a hospital cave constructed during the American/Vietnam war. Forty-five minutes on the back of a scooter winding around the coastal road of the island delivered us to our destination. Cat Ba was like a gulf island, but in a foriegn land. We climbed a mountain in the national park and gained a 360 degree view of our temporary residence while exchanging travel stories with a young couple from Chili. Dampened to the core we made reservations to exit the island the following day in search of warmer weather.
After a short journey to Na Binh we decided to continue further south, by recommendation of fellow travelers, to the city of Hue. On arrival in Na Binh we were informed of a boat accident that claimed the life of twelve people earlier that morning in the vicinity of the island we had just left. Most of those who died were tourists who had taken an overnight tour on a Junk Boat. My mind raced with the possibility of that being us. If we had agreed with a guide who suggested the same tour to us, we could have been caught in that very situation. By fate or intuitive decision we had arrived safely to continue our journey. My heart goes out to the families and friends of those who were lost. The world is a very small place and we have made friends who we know for only a few days and then are gone forever. To all of you, safe journeys.